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II. Patrimony of Taybeh

a) The Byzantine Church "El Khader"

Ruins of the Byzantine church El Khader
The remains of El Khader may still be seen today, behind the Greek-catholic parish church (Melkite Rite) next to the cemetery. It was a great three vault construction, or rather a cross-planned foundation, with two lateral chapels, an entrance portico and stairways, a whole complex probably being 28x25 m. It is hoped a pending archaeological study will bring more exact information on the dating of these important remains which undoubtedly belong to the Byzantine period (IV-VII A.D.). This is demonstrated in the beautiful cruciform baptistery equal in form and dimensions to the well preserved in the church of the Multiplication of Bread at Tabgha and other sites in Israel.

The crusaders in their praiseworthy and fruitful attempt to preserve any evangelical record or memory, rebuilt this church in the XII century. We are not sure exactly to whom this church was dedicated, even though the suggested dedication has arrived up until our own day with the title of the Khader. The title used is a mythical name generally applied to the prophet Elijah and to St. George of Lydda. They believed Elijah visited Taybeh and lived in a grotto near the Khader.

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b) The Parable House

The house, situated in a courtyard turned car park immediately in front of the Latin Catholic Church at Taybeh was lived in by a local Christian family until 1974. It was then bought by the local parish and restored to produce a replica of a typical house as it used to be in the time of Jesus.

The aim of having such a facility was to produce a teaching aid to help people understand better the context of the thirty eight parables of Jesus in the Bible as well as other parts of the Sacred Scriptures.

The house itself is about 250 years old although the entrance is about 2000 years old. Engraved in stone on the fašade above the door way are five religious symbols of the time. These include the well known Star of David and the less noticeable Star of Balaam.

The house is quite small at less than thirty feet by thirty feet. As soon as you go in there is a small hall way. The door itself is wind and water tight but there is a small channel built in the step underneath the door. This is like a glorified cat flap without a flap for smaller animals to get in and out of the house.

This is what we read about in the Song of Songs when the man speaks to the woman he loves through the door but passes his hand through the opening at the bottom of the door! (Song of Songs 5: 4 -5)

The front door of the
Parable House.

On the right, there are two rooms. The first one has a very low ceiling and most people need to bend down quite low to be able to go into it. This used to be the place where smaller animals were lodged.

So one would have expected to find sheep and lambs, and perhaps dogs and cats. The smell in the house may not have been pleasant but keeping these animals inside had its advantages. It provided free central heating and protected the animals from being stolen by thieves or getting injured and killed by other animals.

The room above this low room is reached by climbing three steps. This was the living room in every sense of the word. There is a fire which shows that people used to cook there. It was also the sitting room and bed room.

"The room above this low room is reached by climbing three steps. This was the living room in every sense of the word"

Mattresses made of straw were slept in at night and rolled up neatly during the day. All members of the family lived there. From this setting one could understand the inconvenience caused to the man in the Gospel whose friend goes to knock on his door and begs him for food at night. He has to climb over his sleeping family, make his way through any animals sleeping in the hallway and look after his friend who called.

The room and indeed the whole house have no electric lighting. There is a shelf above the fire place. Several lamps of oil are there, like the ones used by the wise and foolish virgins in the parable. As you walk in the darkened house, it is easy to recall Jesus' instruction not to leave one's light hidden under the bushel.

Hanging on the wall there are a couple of old garments making obvious the foolishness of using old cloth on new garments and vice versa. There is also a big casket of wine, reminding the visitor of putting old wine into fresh skins and fresh wine into old skins.

There are also some agricultural implements. The fork was used for sifting wheat from harvest after the harvest. The plough is what Jesus told his disciples not to look back while using it.

Facing this multi-purpose living, sleeping, cooking and reception room, on the other side of the hall is the alcove where the bride used to stay on the day of her wedding as she waited for the groom.

From the multi-purpose room one could see a kind of skylight in the roof which was closed in winters and opened in the summer. This was the kind of opening in the roof through which the paralytic was let in to the house where Jesus was.

Jesus would have been in the multi purpose room. The skylight was in the upper room next door.

"This used to be the place where smaller animals were lodged. So one would have expected to find sheep and lambs"

The separating wall between and the multi purpose room and the other upper room was built of four or five bins made of clay and straw for lentils and wheat and various grains. The room was a store room which reminds the visitor of the parable of the man whose land gave a lot of produce and so he decided to fill up his stores and have an easy life until death came to him that same night. "And then", asked Jesus, "whose will all this wealth be?"

The whole of the upper room next to the multi purpose living room was a store room. The householder had access to the bins from this room as well as to the other storage space in the room itself.

One could see in its historical context, from this building, what Jesus' hearers would have understood when he refers to storing goods that last and well up to eternal life.

Underneath the store room, adjacent to the low ceiling animal stable, is the fourth room. The floor here is far from being level. Instead it shows the rocks on which the house was built. It was common wisdom to build one's house in caves or on rocks to protect them from gales and storms - as Jesus taught!

This fourth room was for cows and horses and other bigger animals which would not have had enough space in the smaller animal shelter.

The amount of clutter in the upper multi purpose room and the presence of several animals in the house bring to life the effort the woman would have had to put into sweeping the house until she found the lost drachma. It was a major effort also because the floors were not tiled and no water, toilet or cleaning facilities could be found in the house.

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